Reagan Presidential Library
After having recently visited the Clinton Presidential Library in Little Rock and the LBJ Presidential Library in Austin, we found out we really enjoy visiting presidential libraries. We were disappointed that we didn't take the time last year to visit the Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley. In May when we were finalizing our summer travel plans for this year, we decided to go the extra 500 miles from the Grand Canyon to visit it.
It was about a three hour drive from the county park at Calico Ghost Town in Yermo, CA, to Simi Valley where we stayed at Tapo Canyon Regional Park, which is another county park (Ventura County). Tapo Canyon is located a little north of the city of Simi Valley. The park only has about 20 sites, but they all have full hookups with 30/50 amp electric. The road around the campground and the pads are paved, but the rest of the campground is all dirt. Even with a 10% senior discount, the nightly rate was a bit high at almost $40 when the reservation fee was added in. However, the sites are generously spaced, the surrounding hills are attractive, and the campground is nice and quiet.
When we arrived, only a few sites were occupied, but we saw most of the rest of the sites had "Reserved" tags on them, so we waited for the place to full up and get zooy on the weekend. When only one other RV showed up Friday night, we checked the reserved tags and found they were all left over from the previous weekend which was Memorial Day. We ended up sharing the campground with only 6 other RVs, including the campground hosts.
The Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, located in the hills above Simi Valley, and was only about 20 minutes from the campground. The library was opened in 1991 and is designed in a Spanish colonial style. The intimate appearance of the entrance belies the fact this is the largest of all the presidential libraries.
We decided to go to the library on Friday hoping there would be fewer people there than on the weekend. However, we forgot about school field trips, and there were at least 5 school buses in the parking lot when we arrived. As it turned out, the library is plenty big enough we hardly noticed the kids. Plus, when we did cross paths with them, we found them to be among the best behaved school groups we have ever seen.
Ronald Reagan was the 40th President of the United States from 1981 to 1989. He was born in Illinois, and, after spending a few years in radio in the mid-west, he moved to Los Angeles in the late 1930s where he became an actor. He appeared in numerous TV programs and 52 movies, one of the most famous of which is Knute Rockne, All American. Ronald Reagan played the role of George "the Gipper" Gip (win one for the Gipper). Reagan was known by the nickname "the Gipper" for the rest of his life.
In his younger days, Ronald Reagan was a liberal Democrat who admired Franklin D. Roosevelt and the New Deal. In the early 1950s, however, he began supporting Republican political candidates, and he served as Republican Governor of California from 1967 to 1975.
In 1976, Reagan narrowly lost the Republican Presidential nomination to incumbent Gerald Ford, who ultimately lost the election to Jimmy Carter. Reagan won the Republican nomination in 1980 and defeated Carter in November of that year.
Parts of the library were closed for renovations when we were there in preparation for Ronald Reagan's 100th birthday in 2011. However, most of the exhibits were open including the full-size replica of the Oval Office as it appeared during President Reagan's terms in office.
The Air Force One Pavilion was opened in 2001 after the retirement of the Boeing 707 that was used as Air Force One by President Reagan. The 747 that is currently in use was ordered during the Reagan Administration, but was not put into service until Reagan's successor, President George H. W. Bush, took office.
We were able to tour the aircraft, but photographs were not permitted on board. We did, however, stop for a photo at the exit by the tail.
The Air Force One Pavilion also has a Marine One helicopter on display. President Eisenhower was the first U. S. President to use a helicopter for transportation. "White Tops," as they are called because of the familiar green and white paint scheme started by President Kennedy, are used for on shorter journeys and to shuttle
the President back and forth from the White House to Andrews Air Base in Maryland to board Air Force One.
As we explained when we visited the retired Air Force One plane at the LBJ Library, these aircraft are commonly called Air Force One and Marine One, but they do not receive that official designation until the President is actually on board.
President Reagan's limousine is also on display in the pavilion. This 1984 Cadillac was state-of-the-art when it was first built. Incidentally, President Clinton's limo in Little Rock will be the last one put on display. All limos after that will undergo destructive testing when they are decommissioned to evaluate the effectiveness of the armor in order to make improvements in the future.
There are beautiful views down into the valley from several locations at the library, including from the terrace outside the pavilion. They even say you can see the Pacific Ocean, but it was pretty hazy the day we were there. The haze in Simi Valley was gray because it was caused mostly by the marine layer (fog off the ocean), but the haze looking toward LA (out of the photo to the left) was brownish because it was a combination of marine layer and smog.
From the outside stairway to the upper level of the pavilion we could see a whimsical topiary in the shape of an Republican elephant.
President Reagan visited 26 foreign countries during his two terms in office. These countries are represented by their flags displayed on the upper floor of the Air Force One Pavilion. There is an accompanying display of a number of photos showing some of those visits.
President Reagan is credited by many as being instrumental in bringing about the end to the Cold War. The upper floor of the pavilion also has a display symbolizing Checkpoint Charlie, which was the best-known crossing point between East and West Berlin during the Cold War.
There was also an excellent video detailing Reagan's role in ending the Cold War. He took a
tough stance against the USSR by strengthening the U. S. Military, by
reviving the B-1 bomber program canceled by Carter, by strengthening
ties with our allies, and by proposing the Strategic Defense
Initiative (SDI). SDI was a land and space-based nuclear missile defense
system. Opponents of dubbed it "Star Wars" and said it wouldn't work. But it did work to help end the Cold War, and we didn't even have to build it. Just the prospect of a comprehensive defense system was enough.
In a speech in front of the Brandenburg Gate on June 12, 1987, commemorating the 750th anniversary of Berlin, Ronald Reagan challenged Michail Gorbachev, General Secretary of the Communist Party in the Soviet Union, by saying, "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!" The wall came down a little over two years later in 1989, and the Soviet Union was dissolved in 1991.
the lawn of the Reagan Library is a section of the Berlin Wall. The East Berlin (communist) side of the wall is stark, gray concrete. The West Berlin side was decorated with artwork and graffiti.
From the pavilion the tour went to the National Treasures Gallery where there were some of gifts given to President Reagan by visiting heads of state.
Also on display is the suit President Reagan was wearing when he was shot during an assassination attempt by John Hinkley, Jr. on March 30, 1981. Although Reagan recovered, the bullet narrowly missed his heart and pierced his left lung.
One of ours favorites at the museum was a temporary display of a miniature of the White House. With a scale of one inch equals one foot, the model is 50 feet long and 18 feet wide. The model, which was created by the Zweiffel family, took over 600,000 hours to build. First exhibited in 1979, this model has been seen by 42 million people.
You can peer through the windows and see hand-carved tables and chairs, crystal chandeliers and working televisions. The wall on the back side is open revealing even more of the amazing detail.
There are also displays of individual rooms from various periods in history including this one with President Lincoln. Lincoln appears to be looking into the fireplace in deep
We left the library by way of Reagan Memorial site. After struggling with Alzheimer's Disease in his later years, Ronald Reagan Died on June 5, 2004. After a state funeral in Washington, D. C., his body was flown to the library in Simi Valley for burial.President Reagan once said, "There is no limit to what you can accomplish if you don't care who gets the credit." This presidential library exemplifies his belief. There were bronze plaques and pictures recognizing many, many of the people who served with him. Although we've only visited three presidential libraries so far, this was the first time we have seen such a magnanimous gesture in such a setting.
We enjoyed our visit to the Reagan Presidential Library and learning more about this period in history. After our visit we had a day to chill out around the motor home, then we headed for a new location. Stay tuned.